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Friends, today’s entry is about family.

Although my relationship to Emmett is distant — in fact, I’m Emmett’s 15th cousin — our common relative can be proven and shown in genealogical records.

Earl of Caithness arms, Scotland.

Earl of Caithness arms, Scotland.

Our common ancestor, actually, is William Sinclair, First Earl of Caithness (circa 1405-1480); he had several daughters. My branch descends from his daughter Marjory Sinclair, Emmett’s branch descends from Marjory’s sister, Eleanor Sinclair.

Discovering that Emmett was even distantly related to me was a total unexpected and wonderful development. Now knowing this biography had a family connection made me anxious to get to know Emmett; this had become more than just a tenure requirement for me. Who was this man who was my cousin? Would my other cousins, nieces and nephews of Emmett, be able to fill in the information holes I’m finding in telling Emmett’s story?

Luckily, I have been able to find a few relatives who have been a great help to me so far.

During my visit to Pensacola, I made a stop in Montgomery to visit Emmett’s niece, Jule. She is the daughter of Emmett’s twin brother, Julian. You’d never guess she’s 97 years young. Jule is one of the most lovely people I’ve ever met: Gracious, gentle, and thoughtful, she has helped me with Emmett’s story. I also met Jule’s daughter, Carol, who was equally gracious and kind.

Jule and Julian Wilson in the 1940s. Jule still has that lovely smile.

Jule and Julian Wilson in the 1940s. Jule still has that lovely smile.

Jule has told me interesting anecdotal things about her father and some of her aunts and uncles. Jule’s reflections give a good understanding of Emmett’s immediate family, and how Emmett probably related to them. They were a loving family; kind people who kept in touch with each other as best they could over the years.

Emmett’s siblings may not have understood him (or his alcohol addiction), but they did love him, and they did their best to help him. I’m humbled and yet proud to be even distantly related to them.

Unfortunately, Jule was not able to tell me anything anecdotal about Emmett. It seems that her father Julian simply did not talk about him.

This isn’t unusual; I have other relatives in my own immediate family who do not share anecdotes or information about parents or siblings, either, for whatever reason. For example, my aunt refuses to talk in detail about my great grandmother and the trials she endured in her life, because she remembers how painful they were to her mother and to her. She is the only living relative who remembers my great grandmother when she lived. I wish she would talk with me about my great grandmother; however, I do respect her boundaries.

With regard to Emmett’s story and family anecdotes, Jule did tell me that she always felt there was a sadness about Julian and his family, perhaps related to the early death of his twin brother. She said that her father never mentioned what that might be.

When I first started this project last year, I was apprehensive about reaching out to people I did not know, who did not know me, but who shared distant family connections. I completely expected suspicion and even to be told they weren’t interested.

However, I was warmly welcomed, and my cousins were and have been interested in what I’ve found about Emmett and the Wilson family. I’ve been able to give them information they didn’t have before.

I haven’t even put a draft of the biography together, and still, I feel like this has been a success already. I have a larger, and more wonderful family as a result of this research than I could have ever imagined. What a blessing.


Categories: Family


Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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